Thousands Stranded on Christmas Eve as Typhoon Slams into Philippines

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Typhoon Phanfone slammed into the Eastern Philippines on Tuesday with “destructive” winds, leaving thousands stranded on Christmas Eve as authorities cancelled some air and sea travel.

More than 23,700 passengers were unable to get to their homes as the coast guard prevented ferries in eastern and central provinces from operating due to rough seas.

Dozens of domestic flights were also cancelled, forcing thousands of people to camp out in airports in Manila and other provinces.

Phanfone intensified into a typhoon hours before it made landfall over Salcedo town in Eastern Samar province, 595 kilometres south-east of Manila, at 4.45 pm (0845 GMT), the weather bureau said.

It was packing maximum sustained winds of 120 kilometres per hour (kph) and gusts of up to 150 kph as it moved west at 20 kph, it added.

The typhoon brought “destructive typhoon force winds” and heavy rains over Eastern Samar and the surrounding areas, the bureau said.

Other eastern and central provinces would experience “damaging gale to storm-force winds” on Christmas Day, the weather bureau said in its latest bulletin.

“This may bring light to moderate damage to high-risk structures and at most light damage to medium-risk structures,” it added.

Phanfone, locally called Ursula, is the 21st cyclone to hit the Philippines this year, according to the weather bureau.

One of the strongest storms in recent memory, Typhoon Haiyan, hit the country in November 2013, killing more than 6,300 people and displacing more than 4 million.

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